There are stories abounding of shelters empty of rescue animals because during this time of Covid 19, people are adopting dogs and cats in droves. On the face of it, this is a good news story and heartwarming. Hardly any animals in shelters. That's got to be a good thing, right?
Well maybe, maybe not.
In my opinion, (I do feel I am qualified to give an opinion in this regard as someone who has worked in rescue for many years), responsible and ethical rescues should always be doing home checks before they allow an adopter to take home a dog. Good rescues have an application form to fill in, followed by a home check in person at the prospective adopter's home to check that all they have said on their application is true, that their home situation is appropriate for that particular dog, its personality and behaviour traits. The prospective adopters should also have spent quality time with the dog before deciding this is the dog for them.
While I know there are some rescues who don't believe in home checks, it is in my opinion, neither ethical nor responsible to place any dog in a new home without having visited the home first.
Sadly, there are a lot of rescues who are importing dogs from outside of a country and the new adopters only get to meet the dog when they collect it from the airport just after the dog has arrived after what may have been a very long and frightening experience. No home checks have usually been done, and for many of those new adopters, this leads to heartbreak because the dog turns out not to be suitable for their family or their lifestyle, often due to behaviour issues. I have seen this first hand. The dog then ends up in the Canadian shelter system, taking up room that a Canadian dog may have been able to fill.
However, I digress!
My point is that given the procedures that are recommended by the government to be in place at this time, rescues are not doing in person home checks; or at least they shouldn’t be. So if these dogs are getting adopted, they may well be going to homes with no home check in place.
Well, you say, can’t they do home checks via video? Surely that would be OK? I don’t believe it is. I don’t believe there is any substitute for visiting the home yourself and getting a feel for the atmosphere of the home and the family dynamics.
I know from long experience that on paper an adoptive family can seem ideal. But when you walk into the home, you know from the first few minutes that this is absolutely not the right place for the dog. If you are experienced in doing home checks and are good at reading people, you get an instinct for these things. I have also experienced an application form not seeming ideal, and yet when visiting the home, you know that actually, it IS the right place for that particular dog.
I believe that adopting dogs out to home-checked adopters is more likely to result in the dog staying in that new home.
So, at this time people are most likely adopting dogs without home checks. Their circumstances are a lot different right now. They have probably decided to adopt a dog because they are not working outside the home, they have plenty of time and a dog would be good company.
Problem is that people have to ask themselves what is going to happen when Covid 19 is no longer an issue and they go back to work, the kids go back to school, and life returns to normal. That may mean the dog being alone all day. Are they prepared:
To employ a dog walker to make sure the dog is not alone for 8 or 9 hours a day
To pay for the dog to go to daycare
For the dog to possibly exhibit separation anxiety at being suddenly left alone
For problems that can result from separation anxiety such as
Angry neighbours who may report the barking to animal control
The dog destroying items in the home through anxiety
The dog developing behaviour issues that may require specialist help.
I guess sensible people will have thought ahead to when life gets back to normal. I would really like to believe this is the majority. One would hope they have thought of all the above and are prepared for it, all before they bring the dog home. However, my worry is that there will be those that cannot think ahead like this and then, when life does go back to normal they have a problem on their hands with a dog who needs from them what they are unable to give, either due to simple time, or cost. What happens then? Well, we can guess can't we. The dog could end up back at the shelter or may live the rest of his days with his needs not being met.
Yes, I know. It’s a cynical attitude. I am absolutely sure there are people who will completely disagree with me and say I am doom mongering. Well, maybe it is just that I come from a place of practicality and passion and I worry for those dogs who may end up back at the shelter because their new people didn’t think ahead. They don’t deserve that.
Here's an article (it's written for Australia but it doesn't matter) about this very subject. Just click on the link.